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In the 1971 Italian giallo thriller "The Black Belly of the Tarantula," we meet a very unusual policeman, Inspector Tellini. He is unusual, insofar as these gialli are concerned, because he's unsure of himself, not certain if he should stay with his job, and makes many mistakes. Then again, his adversary here is a bit unusual, too: a killer who paralyzes his victims with an acupuncturist's needle in the back of the neck before ever so slowly (and excruciatingly...for this viewer, anyway) slicing their abdomens open. For the life of me, I could not figure out where this picture was headed or what it had on its mind; forget about figuring out the identity of the killer! Thus, I just sat back and enjoyed the ride, and was pleased when everything did congeal, plotwise, at the end. And there ARE many things to enjoy here. Tellini is played by Giancarlo Giannini, a year before he would commence a string of some half dozen hits with director Lina Wertmuller that would catapult him to international stardom. He is as fine an actor as has ever appeared in a giallo film, and he is here surrounded by some truly gorgeous women, including no less than three former/future Bond girls: Barbara Bouchet (whose exposed, superperky buttocks automatically earn this film 5 stars!), Claudine "Domino" Auger and Barbara Bach, here looking younger than I've ever seen her. Other things to enjoy: a creepy, arrhythmic, discordant score by the great Ennio Morricone, flashy direction by Paolo Cavara, some good action scenes (I love that three-way rooftop chase) and, like I mentioned, a meaty story to sink your mental teeth into. Not to mention those grisly murders! Don't believe the Maltin book, which gives a paltry 1 1/2 stars to the cut, 88-minute version of this film. Check out this fine-looking, uncut DVD from Blue Underground, with excellent subtitles and extras, for a unique and exciting giallo experience.
THE BLACK BELLY OF THE TARANTULA (Paolo Cavara - France/Italy 1971).
A deranged killer is injecting beautiful women with the poison of a rare wasp, paralyzing them and forcing them to witness their own brutal murders. When nymphomaniac Barbara Bouchet and somewhat later her husband have been disemboweled, inspector Tellini (Giancarlo Giannini) is called in to stop the killer's venomous rage. He loves his wife, but is dedicated to his police work above anything else and is away from home a lot, so this leaves his wife a little unhappy at times. Pressure on their marriage is rising, but when the killer targets him and his wife, his blasé attitude towards life won't do the trick anymore.
This is a fine Giallo with great cinematography and style to burn. And I'm very forgiving when a film opens with a buck-naked Barbara Bouchet parading around in the first five minutes. Definitely one the better gialli made, beautifully filmed, gorgeous sets, a sumptuous score by Ennio Morricone and on top of it, three Bond-girls, Barbara Bouchet (CASINO ROYALE), Claudine Auger (THUNDERBALL) and Barbara Bach (THE SPY WHO LOVED ME).
The film boasts some superb and highly stylized cinematography with evocative use of locations by Marcello Gatti, who lensed THE BATTLE OF ALGIERS five years previous and would later work on Polanski's WHAT. The film has a rather unusual setting, with many scenes filmed in Rome around modernist housing blocks. It's a shame so few of Paolo Cavara's other films are available on DVD. Perhaps "Black Belly" is not covering any new ground, but as far as perfection in Giallo mysteries goes, this comes very close.
Giannini looks a bit bored throughout the whole film. Perhaps he is contemplating about his appearance in yet another Italian B-movie. Speaking of Giannini, what's the deal with that little mustache he's cultivating? He looks almost exactly like Alain Delon in LE CERCLE ROUGE, made just a year earlier.
Camera Obscura --- 8/10
A great giallo from a director who made too-few forays into the genre
but come up with the goods each time.
In particular, this (like "The Fifth Cord") is a great example of how the giallo creates a particular physical space in which the drama takes place - all ultra-modern and chic, with all sorts of psychosis rotting away under the slick surface.
Highlights include a great chase around and on the roof of a modernist office, Giancarlo Giannini's fine performance as a cop struggling with doubts about his abilities in a case that gets all too personal, a cameo by Walter Eugene from "The House With Laughing Windows", a high quota of gorgeous starlets and one of Morricone's best scores. And another guest-starring appearance by J&B scotch - surely worthy of a few PhD essays in it's own right for it's ubiquity in the genre (did the Italians drink an awful lot of this in the 60S and 70s or were they keen early adopters of product placement?)
Well worth a viewing for the general thriller fan and a must for any self-respecting giallo aficionado.
In most of the Giallo movies I have seen so far,there was always this gimmick that made the movie distinguish itself in the genre. While there is such a gimmick used here it nearly isn't as interesting as it sounded. The gimmick of course is the killer using acupuncture needles to paralyze the victims like this special wasp does to the black tarantula. And that is it. The title sounds more intriguing than it is. The movie contains enough moments to maintain a certain tension. But without red herrings it is actually pretty easy to pick out the killer. In good Giallos they often give hints and clues in making you think who the suspect is and then hit you with this amazing twist that turns everything upside down and still make sense. "Black Belly..." lacks serious suspects so basically everyone could be the killer. Very sloppy or lazy and no fun whatsoever. This movie doesn't even try to make sense of the killer's actions which usually should be the key element in unfolding the killer's identity. Apart from the beautiful women this movie isn't special. Is it a waste of time then? No,not really. But one familiar with the genre does expect more creativity. The main character also starred as Matis in the last two Bond movies which sort of gives this movie more glamour. Overall this movie just lacks the punch I expect to be in a giallo movie.
Moderately watchable by-the-numbers giallo without the stylishness and
flamboyant set-pieces of the best ones, but, fortunately, without the
excessive absurdities and logical flaws of the worst ones either.
(Though there's still enough silliness and idiocy left intact to keep
the most fervent genre fan satisfied; not to mention the exploitative
attitude giallos are notorious for.)
After a strong first half hour, the plot loses momentum up to a lame denouement, followed by the usual ridiculous psychobabble.
At least, the pace never flags and the actors are above average.
3 out of 10 see-through killer gloves (for a change)
My God! The opening scene alone is worth the price of admission!
Barbara Bouchet being given a nude body massage while Ennio
Morricone's score (hightened by Edda Del Orso's seductive
vocals) explores our aural senses is nearly the best opening I've
ever seen... period! Paolo Cavara's brilliant Giallo "The Black Belly
Of The Tarantula" is definately special. The film contains a
beautiful (Euro Babe) cast, that would please James Bond
afficianados everywhere. It contains three Bond Girls in one film!
The wonderful Claudine Auger ("Thunderball"), Barbara Bouchet
("Casino Royale"), and Barbara Bach ("The Spy Who Loved Me"),
all lending shady perversity to the proceedings. The title refers to
the sadistic means in which a killer is performing on his prey. An
acupuncture needle is inflamed with a paralysing poison that the
killer inserts into the neck of his victim (realistically, this would
probably kill someone, but hey... this is an Italian B Movie!!) thus
insuring that the victim is paralysed yet concience while the killer
tears open their belly with a knife (eehhh...hella creepy!). The story
primarily surrounds the investigation by Inspector Tellini (well
acted by Giancarlo Giannini) of the murder of Maria Zani (Barbara
Bouchet) who was being blackmailed before her death. Other
murders follow, as the Inspector's trail leads to a Fashion
Boutique, a Science Laboratory, and then a Health Spa, which are
all linked to drug traffiking and sexual deviant politics. Like "What
Are Those Strange Drops Of Blood Doing On Jennifer's Body" this
film as well could be a kind of prototype Giallo film. If you are
familiar with the genre, you can only laugh at the way the victim
always says to the Inspector "I can't talk right now... but I think I
know who the killer is. Come back later (or tomorrow), and I'll tell
you. (another equally laughable sentence is: "I just want to check
something out, but I'll meet you later!) This line is usually a recipe
to get yourself gutted and tortured in the most painful of ways. Also,
like "What Are Those..." this film again has the theme of moral
avenger (quite often this theme is linked with something
resembling impotence... c'mon you got to laugh at that!) that
strikes out on the poor girls with viciousness. I'm still trying to sort
out if this is somehow linked to the cynicism surrounding
Catholicism in Italy? But the killer's use of fetishistic surgical
gloves only insures that this is pure Euro-Trash at it's best.
Giancarlo Giannini's Inspector Tellini is a slightly different breed of cop. The film interestingly delves further (then most Gialli) into the relationship of him and his wife Anna (played by the beautiful Stefania Sandrelli), and the moodiness surrounding his job. He neurotically says "I just don't think I can do this anymore. I want to quit." (echoing my own displays of verbal discontent in the work world, as my girlfriend pointed out) And in the end when Inspector Tellini loses his cool, as the killer gets closer to getting to his wife!
This is a great little Giallo, which unfortunately is a tad hard to find in America. But I nevertheless highly recommend it to those who love weird and twisted little masterpieces that come from a country of machisimo mentality. And the music score is to die for!!!!
When the nymphomaniac Maria Zani (Barbara Bouchet) is murdered, her ex-
husband and insurance broker Paolo Zani (Silvano Tranquilli) becomes
the prime-suspect of Inspector Tellini (Giancarlo Giannini). Then the
saleswoman Mirta Ricci (Annabella Incontrera) is murdered in the same
modus operandi both victims had been paralyzed by acupuncture needles
with poison introduced in their necks and their bellies had been ripped
open with a knife with the victims still alive, in the same way that
tarantulas are killed by tarantula hawks. The police find that she was
also a drug dealer,
Paolo meets Inspector Tellini to tell him that he is innocent. Further, he hires the private eyes La Catapulta that finds the last man that had met Maria, the photographer Mario (Giancarlo Prete). Paolo pursues Mario but they both die and Inspector Tellini finds an envelope addressed to Franca Valentino with Mario. Inspector Tellini discovers that he was a blackmailer and meanwhile Franca becomes the third victim of the serial killer. When the masseuse Jenny (Barbara Bach) is found dead wrapped in plastic bag, Inspector Tellini goes to the massage parlor to meet the manager Laura (Claudine Auger) and he believes that an employee may be the serial-killer.
"La Tarantola dal Ventre Nero" is a great "giallo" with the typical structure a serial-killer that wears gloves and the identity is only discovered in the end; the victims are beautiful semi-naked women; gore deaths; a persistent detective pursues the killer; and wonderful music score.
The story is well developed, with many plot points. The very young Giancarlo Giannini works with very beautiful women, three of them future Bond girls (Claudine Auger and the Barbaras Bouchet and Bach). The great music score of Ennio Morricone completes the work of the director Paolo Cavara. My vote is seven.
Title (Brazil): "O Ventre Negro da Tarântula" ("The Black Belly of the Tarantula")
Inspector Tellini (Giancarlo Giannini) must investigate the bizarre
murder of two seemingly unconnected women, paralysed by their killer so
that they may be horrifically violated while conscious.
It has often been said that Italian cinema is all style and no plot but here is a definite example to the contrary. 'The Black Belly of the Tarantula' is indeed a stylish Italian offering laced with some truly exquisite photography and novel camera trickery but it also consists of a strong plot that surprises and captivates while maintaining a profound aura of trepidation. It is, however, perhaps the most apparent downfall in the film that the plot becomes the central focal point as several aspects to the story are left unexplored, subsequently leaving no acceptable closure of the respective plot aspect. Unfortunately because of this, the prevalent incoherency of Italian cinema is once again revisited and due to the nature of the film it is perhaps more difficult than usual to ignore. With this in mind, one should realise that the central storyline is stark enough to arouse and preserve viewer interest while only the sub-plots weaken the overall presentation of the film.
Despite the mainly superficial criticisms one can direct at the film, 'The Black Belly of the Tarantula' still takes a firm position as one of the finer examples of this particular brand of Italian film-making. Unquestionably, the opening thirty minutes are immensely powerful, offering some of the most intimidating murder sequences ever confined to the cinematic medium. The use of gloomy visuals, point-of-view shots, intentionally disorientating photography, a wonderful musical score blending both prominence and subtlety and a lavish use of dark colours and shadows creates an almost unsurpassed eerie and brutal ambiance to accompany the violent actions depicted on screen and the shrill, short, terrifying shrieks of the killer's victims seek only to underline the artistic craftsmanship of the picture. The brusque transition to silence that immediately follows the first attack of the murderer in each individual case is so overwhelmingly haunting that the following actions are immeasurably disturbing in their tranquillity. Undoubtedly, these sequences are the pinnacle of creativity from Paolo Carvara in this picture; sublime in their splendour and disconcerting in their substance.
The most apt way to summarise 'The Black Belly of the Tarantula' would be to simply describe it as flawed genius. Arguably too plot-heavy and with an unmistakably clichéd outcome, the superlative qualities fortunately shine through and leave the film as impressive, not disappointing. Perhaps those more highly versed in the Italian Giallo will appreciate the effort and artistry slightly more than others, but in any case, 'The Black Belly of the Tarantula' is worthy viewing for all fans of cinema. 7½/10
Black Belly of the Tarantula is both a great thriller in its own right
and surely one of the best entries in the Giallo cycle. The film is
reminiscent of several like it, but this one is the most cerebral and
most sadistic Giallo I've seen. The modus operandi of the killer at the
centre of the story involves jabbing his victim with a poison laced
needle which induces paralysis. He then proceeds to gut them while
they're still alive and unable to do anything about it! Director Paolo
Cavara seems to realise just how malicious this plot is, and so the
film is not gratuitous. The reliance on the idea behind the murders is
far more shocking than any amount of gore; so it doesn't matter that
there isn't a lot of the red stuff. Typically, the film works from an
extremely convoluted plot which sees a woman, who is also a member of a
private health club, become the victim of blackmail. Around the same
time; dead bodies start piling up and our hero; an insecure police
detective by the name of Tellini learns that the murders are done in
the style of the black wasp killing a tarantula...
As ever with Giallo, the film isn't particularly easy to follow; as there's so much going on that it's easy to miss one or two key plot elements. This is, however, far better than having too little going on and unlike many Giallo's, at least this one mostly resolves everything by the conclusion. There's a very potent stream of sleaze running throughout the film also; as if the killer's methods weren't enough on their own. The film features plenty of sex, and it will please some to learn that many of the murders are depicted with the female victim in the nude. The murder scenes themselves are well orchestrated, and director Paolo Cavara delights in showing us the gentle way that the paralysis needle slips into the victims' necks before having their stomachs ripped open with a hunting knife. The cinematography is superb, and it's safe to say that Black Belly of the Tarantula is one of the better looking Giallo films out there. The locations bode well with the film's style, and scenes that take place on a rooftop and in a luxury swimming pool provide visual treats. Overall, I don't hesitate to name Black Belly of the Tarantula as one of the best Giallo's that I've seen and it comes highly recommended!
Judging by its plot, atmosphere and absolutely beautiful cinematography, "Black Belly of the Tarantula" to me felt like a sweet amalgamation between Dario Argento's "Bird with the Crystal Plumage" and Mario Bava's "Blood and Black Lace". And, if you know a little something about Italian horror cinema, you'll agree that there are far worse titles out there to get compared with than these two! This is a masterfully staged and creatively scripted murder mystery with bloody-yet-tense massacres and likable characters for once. A gloved psychopath is killing models of fashion house by paralyzing their nerve systems before slicing them open with a knife. This ingenious modus operandi he borrowed from the killing rituals of a wasp species that hunts tarantula spiders. The young police inspector Tellini investigates the crimes but his own life and that of his beloved wife are soon endangered by the culprit as well. This Italian horror gem features one of Ennio Morricone's finest musical scores and director Paolo Cavara professionally stuffs his film with typical giallo-intrigues like drugs, sexual deceit and blackmail. The girls are beautiful (and showing lots of ravishing naked flesh), the suspense is omnipresent and class actor Giancarlo Giannini makes a perfectly credible police hero. "Black Belly of the Tarantula" contains a handful of powerful sequences that fans of horror genre will consider pure craftsmanship, like the rooftop chase and the super-violent climax. It's not easy to come across a (decent) copy but try your best, as this is essential viewing for all giallo-buffs!
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